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Procedure When Service Records Unavailable

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  • HadIt.com Elder

M21-1-3 Claims Development


a. Although VA will do all it can to assist the claimant in establishing entitlement to benefits and to make a thorough and complete effort to get the veteran's records, the ultimate responsibility for furnishing evidence needed to perfect the claim rests with the claimant.

b. The claim must remain pending until a definitive response is received from the service department. If the service department indicates that it cannot locate the service records, inform the veteran of what evidence we were unable to secure and the efforts made to secure the evidence. Then make a decision on the evidence of record.

(1) The finding should establish that: all procedures have been correctly followed; evidence of written and telephonic efforts to obtain the records are in file; all efforts to obtain the needed military information have been exhausted; further efforts are futile and that, based on these facts, the record is not available.

(2) The finding should give the specifics of the efforts to obtain the service records. Prepare the indings on a separate page to be filed in the claims folder.

(3) After the finding is signed, the claimant will be contacted telephonically. Fully advise the claimant and give the claimant 10 days to furnish the evidence. The claimant should be advised of the lack of response and of the requirement that he/she submit any relevant documents in his/her possession. Further advise the claimant that a decision will be made on the evidence of record if the requested evidence is not received within 10 days from the date of the conversation. Document the results of the telephone contact on VA Form 119. If telephone contact is not made, provide written notification of this information to the claimant. The 10 day time limit for reply will be based on the date of this letter.

c. Only when the service department indicates that all efforts to locate the records have been exhausted and the request to the claimant does not result in receipt of other evidence can the case be routed to the rating activity for final rating action. The rating must outline the efforts made to obtain the records and must include evidence identified by the claimant, but not of record. The claimant will also be advised that if the service medical records are subsequently received, the claim will be reconsidered as though the evidence was of record at the time of the original claim with date of claim protection.

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